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5 March 2010

Brown: my regrets over postwar reconstruction

He signed a blank cheque for the assault on Iraq.

By James Macintyre

At the second session of his appearance before Sir John Chilcot’s inquiry into the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Gordon Brown has now expressed some regrets, specifically over the way in which the postwar plans and reconstruction efforts failed.

He said there were lessons to be learned — including for the “other” major war in which the UK is involved, Afghanistan — and that those lessons were being learned.

At one point, however, he made this revealing statement: “I can’t take personal responsibility for everything that went wrong.” This is already being interpreted, fairly or not, as an indication that he holds Tony Blair responsible for British failings.

On the other hand, Brown has also made it clear that while leading the Treasury, he put up “no financial barrier” on the secondary issue of war resources. He and the Treasury made “allowances for whatever option was chosen”, he said. In other words, he signed a blank cheque, in effect, as early as 2002.

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This, if true, has two implications. It enables Brown to dodge potentially damaging charges of neglect of those troops who died. But it also shows the British electorate that he was deeply involved in the war. Meanwhile, many voters may, as I have said, be seeking “closure” in the shape of a post-Iraq prime minister (and no, David Cameron, that doesn’t mean you).